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How to Use United Miles for Flights and Travel

11 minute read 07 April 2024
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Written by: Sarah Cash

United Airlines has one of the most flexible rewards programs out there. The MileagePlus program allows you to redeem miles on United flights and the airline’s other partners, hotels, and ancillary travel purchases and benefits.

Here’s how to use United MileagePlus miles to book a flight on United or a partner, or book other travel services.

Redeeming United miles for flights on United Airlines

There are several ways to redeem United MileagePlus miles for flights on United. Here’s a quick rundown of a few options before we get more in-depth below.

  • United Airlines flights
  • Star Alliance partner flights
  • Partner flights
  • Other travel 

Now that you know what you can use United Airlines miles on, let’s look at how to search for an award ticket and book award flights.

Searching and redeeming with dynamic award pricing

United doesn’t use an award chart, but instead uses dynamic pricing. That means award pricing can differ on various factors, such as availability, season, and demand. 

With dynamic award pricing, award flights can be considerably more expensive the closer you are to departure, meaning that if you know you have travel plans, you should book them with MileagePlus miles well in advance.

To search for and redeem United MileagePlus miles, you’ll navigate to United’s website, input your departure and arrival airports and dates, and then select “Book with miles.” Make sure to log in or sign up for a MileagePlus account before searching.

You’ll then see the available flights, award pricing, and fare class (economy, premium economy, business/first). Clicking the arrows on each column will allow you to sort. 

Use the 30-day calendar feature to see more award pricing if your dates are flexible. 

Of course, can help simplify the process of booking award flights, allowing you to search more than 100 different reward programs at once — including United’s and its Star Alliance partners’ — to determine the best use of points based on your specific situation.

Buying a United flight with Money + Miles

Let’s say you’re short on United MileagePlus miles but have cash on hand to book a ticket. In that case, United offers the ability to book tickets using a combination of miles and cash called Money + Miles.

To book a Money + Miles ticket, you’ll search for a flight and then select “Money + Miles.” You’ll see if the flight is eligible for a Money + Miles booking and how much the total itinerary will cost.

You’ll then select the final number of miles to apply at checkout and then pay the remainder of the balance in cash. 

Remember that while no fees are associated with changing or canceling an award flight, flights booked with Money + Miles (or in basic economy) cannot be changed, although they can be canceled for a full refund.

Using United miles to upgrade on United

You can use miles to upgrade on United if you’re a MileagePlus member. Doing so is pretty easy: You can request an upgrade at the check-in counter or the gate, or by calling United Reservations at 1-800-UNITED-1.

How much you’ll pay to upgrade your ticket with MileagePlus miles depends on where you’re traveling, where you’re sitting, and whether or not you have United Premier elite status.

Using United miles for flights on Star Alliance and other partner airlines

United is a member of the Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance that includes carriers like Air Canada, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines. That means you can use MileagePlus miles for bookings on Star Alliance partners and other partner airlines. 

United also has partnerships with the following airlines:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Airlink
  • Azul
  • Boutique Air
  • Cape Air
  • Discover Airlines
  • Edelweiss
  • Emirates
  • Eurowings
  • Flydubai
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JSX
  • Olympic Air
  • Silver Airways
  • Virgin Australia
  • Vistara

Redeeming United miles to book Star Alliance partner awards is a great feature, especially if you’re traveling internationally and flying a carrier you may not have enough miles to cover a ticket for. United is also one of the best ways to book Star Alliance award flights, as the airline does not pass on fuel surcharges to travelers. 

However, you’ll find that Star Alliance partner flights are priced considerably higher than United award flights — even those on the same route. You should keep that in mind when searching for Star Alliance award availability on United.

Star Alliance upgrade awards using United miles

Another way to redeem MileagePlus miles is by upgrading on Star Alliance flights. You can request an upgrade at least 24 hours before departure. 

The following Star Alliance tickets can be upgraded — and these are often the most expensive:

  • Economy to Business (on airlines that offer only economy and business cabins on two-cabin aircraft)
  • Economy to First (on airlines that offer only economy and first-class cabins on two-cabin aircraft)
  • Business to First (on airlines that have three-cabin aircraft)

Redeeming United MileagePlus miles for other travel

Flights aren’t the only ways to redeem MileagePlus miles. You can also use miles on hotels and lounge access, and even cover the cost of a TSA PreCheck application.

However, these aren’t considered the best ways to use MileagePlus miles for maximum value. If you want to get the most cents per mile, we recommend booking award flights. 

Redeeming United miles for hotels

You can redeem United miles for hotels through United Hotels, though this isn’t a great way to use your miles. Pricing on United Hotels reservations can be dynamic, so rates can be all over the place.

How to use United miles on flight and airport benefits

Your MileagePlus miles aren’t just handy for booking award tickets or securing upgrades. You can also use miles for purchases, such as:

  • Prepaid baggage (on domestic flights)
  • TSA PreCheck application or renewal fees
  • United Club membership (though you can also get a free membership with elite status or an eligible credit card)
  • Meals at some restaurants and bars at Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Newark International Airport (EWR)
  • In-flight drinks, snacks, and meals
  • In-flight Wi-Fi (starting at 800 miles for United MileagePlus members)

Other ways to use United miles

United MileagePlus miles can be used for other purchases outside of travel. You can use United MileagePlus miles to purchase Apple products, magazines, newspapers, gift cards from stores such as Nike, and more.

However, using your miles on these items won’t get you the best value, so we’d suggest sticking to using MileagePlus miles on flights or upgrades.

Transferring points to United MileagePlus

If you have a credit card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards or Bilt Rewards points, you can transfer them to United at a ratio of one Ultimate Reward or Bilt Rewards point to one United MileagePlus mile. 

Aside from its partnership with Chase, United has several hotel partnerships that allow you to convert points from those programs into MileagePlus miles. Note that many of the programs listed below have a minimum number of points that can be transferred per transaction or a maximum number that can be transferred per year.

  • ALL-Accor Live Limitless: transfer at a ratio of 2,000 points to 1,000 United MileagePlus miles
  • Choice Privileges: transfer at a ratio of 5,000 points to 1,000 miles
  • Hilton Honors: transfer at a ratio of 10,000 Hilton Honors points to 1,000 miles
  • Hyatt: transfer at a ratio of 2.5:1. You’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus when you convert 50,000 points into 20,000 miles.
  • IHG One Rewards: transfer IHG One Rewards points at a 5:1 ratio, or 10,000 points to 2,000 miles
  • Marriott Bonvoy: transfer Marriott Bonvoy points into MileagePlus miles at a rate of 3:1, or three Marriott points per MileagePlus mile. You’ll also receive 10,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 points you convert.
  • Marriott Vacation Club: exchange points for miles, starting at 500 Vacation Club Points for 8,000 miles. Additional transactions start at 250 Vacation Club Points for 4,000 miles, up to 40,000 miles per member.
  • Shangri-La Circle: transfer Shangri-La Circle points to United miles at a 1:1 ratio (minimum of 2,500 points)
  • Wyndham Rewards: transfer points into miles at ratios of 6,000 points to 1,200 miles, 16,000 points to 3,200 miles, and 30,000 points to 6,000 miles

United Club membership

Like other “big three” airlines, United Airlines has a lounge network called the United Club, giving you access to nearly 50 lounges worldwide. You can access the lounge without paying for entry when flying United Polaris business class or transcontinental business, or by having an eligible credit card, among other options.

You can also pay for United Club membership using MileagePlus miles. Here’s the cost:

  • General members, Premier Silver or Premier Gold: $650 or 85,000 miles
  • Premier Platinum: $600 or 80,000 miles
  • Premier 1K: $550 or 75,000 miles

How do I join United MileagePlus?

Joining United MileagePlus is incredibly easy. You’ll simply navigate to United’s website and click on “MileagePlus.”

From there, you’ll create an account using your name, birthdate, and other identifying information. Once completed, you’ll have a United MileagePlus account and can earn and redeem United MileagePlus miles for flights.

Using to redeem MileagePlus points

To redeem MileagePlus points using, you’ll first search for your flights by inputting your starting and ending locations, dates, number of passengers, and booking class.

You can then isolate United flights by checking “United Airlines only.” Once you’ve settled on an itinerary, you’ll book it through United and then return to add your six-digit confirmation number so we can keep track of your trip.

Frequently asked questions about using United points to book travel

How do I redeem miles on United?

You can redeem miles on United when searching for award flights on the website by selecting the “Book with miles” option.

How many miles are needed for a free flight on United?

United doesn’t have an award chart, so there isn’t an exact number of miles needed for a free flight. However, short-haul award flights (think San Francisco to Los Angeles) on United can be found for as low as 5,600 miles one-way.

Do United miles expire?

No, United miles never expire.

Can I book a United flight for someone else?

Yes, you can book a United flight for someone else.

Can I transfer United miles?

Yes, you can transfer United miles from your account to another MileagePlus account. However, you must transfer at least 500 miles (up to 100,000 miles). Transfers cost $7.50 per 500 miles, with a $30 per transaction processing fee.

Can I use Amex points to book a United flight?

Unfortunately, you cannot transfer Amex points to United, but you can still use your Amex points to book a United flight, with a little workaround. You’ll just need to transfer your Amex points to a United partner and then use them to book a United flight on that partner airline’s website.

Can I claim miles from past United flights?

Yes, you can claim miles from past United flights up to 12 months after the date of your flight.

Read more about airline loyalty programs and how to use points

Getting started on

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